For years, I wondered why many non-Muslims insist the entire Muslim is one giant organisation in which literally every member knows each other and shares the exact same admittance, trainings and goals and acknowledges the exact same centralised religious authority.
Basically, they think the Muslim world is more structurally rigid than any Christian churches. You know, a factually incorrect belief.
I still don’t know exactly why they posses it. Maybe they have Christian-centric views of religions. Maybe they want an easy path of dehumanising the others (just like they do to Jews and LGBT people). But, I do notice something else: some of them are obsessed with the concept of ummah.
In Islam, the Arabic word for community also specifically refers to the entire Muslim community, transcending literal and figurative border. We Muslims are encouraged to unite with our fellow believers. Ideally, that’s how the Muslim world should be.
Of course, reality is never ideal. We are anything but united.
Sunnis and Shias waging war against each other, Sunnis violently discriminating against Ahmadis, Iraq-Iran war, Qatar Gulf crisis, the unstable relationship between Indonesia and Malaysia, Bangladeshis still harbouring grudge against Pakistan, the Arab spring, the Somali civil war, ISIS killing fellow Muslims, just to name a few.
When we do care about the plights of Muslims abroad, we only think about ones like the Uyghurs and the Palestinians. You know, the ones persecuted by non-Muslims. Even then, we shoot our own feet by ignoring the nuances, not realising that religion may not be the only factor of persecution, if at all.
From my personal experiences as an Indonesian, the word umat -the Indonesian spelling variant of ummah– has a strong nationalistic connotation; every time I hear Indonesian says the word, they almost always refer to Indonesian Muslims specifically.
In fact, if you add the word manusia after umat, you will have the Indonesian for ‘mankind’. Basically, when we use it to refer to a global community, it becomes entirely non-sectarian.
As I said, I still don’t know exactly why people insist on seeing us as one giant organisation. But, it goes to show that they really overestimate our ability to unite and they certainly take our terminology more seriously than we do.
It is so cute, they should have be the Muslims, not us.
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